With Sunday’s episode, The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running prime-time scripted series in TV history. That’s big news, but more people have been talking about the controversy surrounding Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a character that perpetuated particular stereotypes attributed to South Asian culture. The issue entered the public conversation when comedian Hari Kondabolu released a short documentary, The Problem With Apu, and became a heated topic when The Simpsons addressed the topic with little more than a smug shrug a few weeks ago. Now, creator Matt Groening has shared his two cents.
In a recent interview with USA Today, Groening was asked whether he had thoughts on the criticism of Apu as a stereotype. Groening responded, “Not really. I’m proud of what we do on the show. And I think it’s a time in our culture where people love to pretend they’re offended.”
(Read: The Simpsons’ Top 30 Episodes)
Groening also remarked on a line from the episode that acknowledged the controversy, in which Marge said “some things will be addressed at a later date.” When asked about the meaning of that line, Groening simply replied, “We’ll let the show speak for itself.”
Kondabolu responded to Groening’s comments on Twitter, noting that Groening, like many of his critics, seem to be throwing his criticism under the umbrella of political correctness when he’s trying to have a much more nuanced conversation. “Well, that seals it,” he wrote. “Matt Groening finally responded & sounds like every other troll on the internet who didn’t see the documentary. No one is offended by this character. It was, at times, insulting & was frustrating to many of us who were solely represented by that one image.”
Groening’s ambivalence might be shared by some of his colleagues, but Hank Azaria, the white actor who adopts a thick Indian accent to play the character, recently said he’s “willing to step aside” in the wake of the current conversation.
We’ll find out whether or not that happens eventually. Not only has the show been renewed for a 30th season, but Groening tells USA Today that he doesn’t “see any end in sight” for the animated series.